More and more of us are taking to our bikes for wonderful rides, particularly along the vast network of paths in Germany, Austria and The Netherlands, many of which benefit from being gloriously flat!
If you're thinking about taking a cycling holiday in Europe, here are some tips from our expert Andre Volkel of Mercurio Bike Travel.
1. Do you know what you want from your cycling holiday?
It’s important to consider exactly what you’d like to do on your biking holiday. Are you off to see a particular place, stretch yourself physically or just enjoy some gentle exercise and a relaxing break?
2. Do you know your options?
Picking the holiday that works best for you is important. Are you after a self-supported, self-guided or guided cycling holiday?
You're completely on your own on a self-supported trip. You'll use several panniers to carry all of your belongings and plan everything yourself. A self-supported trip works best for those of a more adventurous nature who have previous cycling experience.
In contrast, the guided cycling holiday is far more about joining a group and being part of a social, as well as physical, activity. There will be a guide who takes charge and is knowledgeable about the area, often organising walks or tours at points of interest. You’ll also have a support vehicle for any problems. The joy of having your luggage taken from hotel to hotel and even packed lunches for when breaks are right off the beaten track.
Do find out how many are on the trip, the speed of travel and what sort of bikes they provide. Details of your overnight stays are important too.
A self-guided cycling holiday is a good compromise if you fancy striking out. You get maps, your hotels are pre-planned, your bags are transported for you, and there’s a backup should you need it, but you'll be free to go your own way. You need a bit of confidence and experience for this kind of holiday as well as the ability to read a map!
3. Do you want a challenge?
One of the essential points is to get the right level of physical activity for you. You do need a degree of fitness and most tour operators grade their holidays, so check exactly what you’re letting yourself in for. Halfway up Mont Blanc is a tricky time to realise it’s the wrong trip for you!
If it’s your first cycling holiday, why not opt for a cycle path beside a river. The slopes will be minimal. Holidays that start with a gentle day or two are also recommended. They give you a chance to get used to the bike and build up a bit of stamina - helping you to avoid those dreaded cycle legs.
If you’re with a group, the guide can make minor alterations to your bike on the way, and you may even have the luxury of bringing your own saddle too. Those filled with gel do seem very comfortable.
4. Are you physically prepared?
Prepare before the holiday so you can really enjoy your cycling trip. You want to be confident on a bike and be out cycling for an hour or two at least twice a week.
It may be worth joining a local Cycle Touring Club for a few local days out. You’ll probably pick up some useful tips too. Spinning classes at the gym are also a great addition.
5. Are you prepared for the country you're visiting?
If you're going overseas, learning a few words in the local language is a great idea. And of course, finding out about the region you’ll be cycling in will add to your enjoyment.
Familiarise yourself with the cycling rules of the place you're visiting. Across Europe it's pretty similar to the UK - aside from driving on the other side of the road - but in some countries, Spain for example, it’s compulsory to wear a helmet. Get all the information you can in advance, especially if you’re venturing further afield.
Holidays on a bike are increasingly popular, perhaps because of the popularity of Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton. Whatever the reason, enjoy your journey and happy cycling!
This article is brought to you by Silver Travel Advisor.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Mercurio Cycle Tours.